Wholemeal hot cross bun recipe


Easter wouldn’t be complete without a toasted hot cross bun. Our twist on the classic recipe uses sour cherries with a white chocolate cross on top, served with cherry compote. Delicious for breakfast or an afternoon treat.

Why cherries? Well not only are these jewel-coloured fruits utterly delicious, but they’re teeming with wellbeing wins too. Rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, cherries can help to protect against cell damage and inflammation in the body. They’re also an excellent source of anthocyanins, which are some of the most powerful flavonoid antioxidants.

And, if you struggle to get to sleep at night, it might be worth adding more cherries into your diet.

Cherries, particularly tart ones, contain a good amount of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone released by your brain that helps to regulate your sleep cycle, making you drowsy at night.

A small study in 2012 found that individuals who supplemented with cherry juice were more likely to have better sleep. The researchers say that this effect could be due to the melatonin content of cherries. Further research in 2018 also found that cherry juice improved sleep in individuals struggling with insomnia.

These hot cross buns are best served fresh, but they will keep for a couple of days if you want to get ahead with your preparation for Easter celebrations. Made too many? Why not try them in our tempting twist on bread and butter pudding – made with hot cross buns.

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  • 175ml whole milk
  • 15g fast-action dried yeast
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 400g wholemeal flour, plus extra to knead the dough
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tbsp ground mixed spice
  • 10 cardamom seeds, bashed to a rough powder
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten plus extra to glaze
  • 150g sour cherries
  • 50g white chocolate, melted

For the berry compote

  • 300g frozen cherries
  • 2 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup


  1. Put the milk into a small saucepan and gently warm through, turn off the heat and leave to cool for five minutes. Add the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar to the warm milk and leave for five minutes.
  2. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt and spices. Rub in the butter and add the remaining sugar. Make a well and add the warm milk mixture and beaten eggs. Mix the dough with a wooden spoon to bring together, then use your hands to knead it.
  3. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and continue to knead for five to ten minutes until the dough springs back to touch. Alternatively, put it in a stand mixer and mix with a dough hook for five minutes.
  4. Put the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Let it rise until it has doubled in size, for about an hour and a half.
  5. Meanwhile, make the compote. Put the cherries in a non-stick medium saucepan with one tablespoon of water and the honey or syrup. Simmer over a low heat for ten minutes until the fruit is bubbling and has broken down. Leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
  6. When the dough has risen, knock the air out of it and add the dried cherries. Knead until the cherries are evenly distributed. Split the dough into 12 and shape into even smooth buns. Place on to two lined baking sheets and mark a cross with a sharp knife on each. Leave to prove for 20 minutes until doubled and puffed up.
  7. Brush the buns with egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes until the buns are golden and cooked through. Leave to cool, then pipe a white chocolate cross on top of the buns (optional) and serve with the compote. Kept in a sealed container the buns will keep for a couple of days but are best eaten on the day baked.